More than half of the state Assembly opposes a $15.4 million funding shift that has raised concern at FFA and other career-training programs.
They are asking Gov. Jerry Brown to keep this money at the high school level, rather than making it part of a $48 million pot under the community college system. They say this annual funding since 2005 has improved instruction at the secondary level, including agricultural education in the state’s farm regions.
Fifty-five of the 80 members of the Assembly signed a letter opposing the shift. They include all of the members representing the Northern San Joaquin Valley and adjacent Sierra Nevada counties. Ten of the 40 state senators also signed, including all of this region’s members.
The money has helped pay for “academies” at high schools that focus on career skills such as health care, public safety, performing arts and agriculture. It has provided extra training for new teachers and leadership opportunities for student groups such as FFA, formerly Future Farmer of America. And it has helped educators tailor courses so they are recognized for admission to the state university systems.
“It is imperative that we get the word out and try to persuade our legislators to make changes to this budget,” said Joe DiGrazia, an ag teacher at Turlock High School, in an email to The Modesto Bee last week.
The Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee voted against the shift last week. It is scheduled to be considered Tuesday, May 23, by the education finance subcommittee of the Assembly Budget Committee. Three state FFA leaders will speak to the panel, including Sentinel Robert Marchy of Turlock.
The shift involves a minute portion of the $53.6 billion in proposed K-12 spending for the fiscal year starting July 1. Critics nonetheless say the current structure has helped match high school classes to the jobs that await in agriculture and other fields.
The letter was drafted by Assemblymen Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, and James Gallagher, R- Yuba City. Salas said by phone Monday that the money still would be available to high schools under the proposed shift, but they would have to compete for it.
He said FFA has been key to the opposition. A similar contingent in the signature blue jackets helped defeat another ag ed shift in 2014.
John Holland: 209-578-2385